La-Z-Boy Foundation & Monroe County Prosecutor Join Forces to Save Lives

Augmented Reality Distracted Driving Simulator Funded at Monroe County High Schools

Monroe County, Michigan – March 22, 2019 – On July 14, 2017, Gladys Johnson, 35, and her 5-year-old daughter, Za’Kira, were killed when their car was rear-ended by a pick-up truck traveling 78 miles per hour. In the hour preceding the fatal accident, pick-up driver, Todd Moyer, had read 13 text messages, typed and sent 15 text messages (some with attachments), performed 3 Google searches, added a contact, and deleted a photo on his phone, all while driving. The senseless deaths, for which Moyer was sentenced to 7 to 15 years in prison, are a motivating factor in a new partnership between the La-Z-Boy Foundation, the Monroe County Prosecutor’s Office, and Grand Rapids based non-profit, the PEERS Foundation.

Working together this spring, the three organizations will provide a unique distracted driving prevention program to the twelve Monroe County high schools. Developed by the PEERS Foundation, the Augmented Reality Distracted Driving Education Simulator (ARDDES) program will put the Monroe County high school students behind the wheel of a car and challenge them to make smart driving decisions. While in the simulator, students wear a meta-2 augmented reality (AR) headset which allows for a 360-degree immersive experience. In addition to seeing the actual dashboard of the simulator car and their hands on the steering wheel, oncoming and passing traffic will be visible in the car’s windows and rear-view mirror, and participants will experience several realistic distractions while ‘driving.’

Citing the tragic deaths of Johnson and her daughter as a result of distracted driving, in the partnership announcement, Monroe County Prosecutor, Michael G. Roehrig stated, “In the hopes of drawing something positive from that tragic case, we moved in two directions. First, promoting hands-free legislation through the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan, and second, pursuing a distracted-driving program for Monroe County high schools.”

The ARDDES project is being generously underwritten by the La-Z-Boy Foundation, which is based in Monroe, Michigan. “La-Z-Boy is committed to enhancing the quality of life in the communities in which we live and serve through leadership, financial contributions and volunteer efforts.  Education is one of the areas of concentration,” reported La-Z-Boy Foundation Director of Community Relatins, Susan Vanisacker, “and we are proud to help bring this beneficial program that teaches the dangers of distracted driving to the students in our community.”

With over 7,000 high school students in Monroe County, the prosecutor’s office, PEERS, and the La-Z-Boy Foundation are confident that the ARDDES experience will both reduce distracted driving and save lives.

A 501c3 non-profit organization based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the PEERS Foundation creates innovative and interactive interventions to engage today’s youth and empower them to make better decisions around health, wellness, and education.